These two culinary herbs are often confused. These herbs have some similarities in how they look. Lavender flowers are gray-colored with a silvery sheen. Rosemary leaves are dark green, and needle-like. There are some big differences between the two, though; let’s take a look at rosemary vs. lavender, so you’ll know how to get the most of them in your cooking!
Read about how caraway and cumin differ, too!
Comparing Lavender and Rosemary
These herbaceous perennials are both from the lamiaceae family, also known as the mint family. Each have aromatic leaves, medicinal uses, and are commonly used in folk medicine. Lavender is a popular herb for calming, while rosemary is used for healthy hair growth. Lavender essential oil and rosemary oil are readily available; we’ll focus on their uses in the kitchen, though!
Despite their visual similarities, lavender and rosemary there are important differences in how they’re used in cooking. Lavender is a sweet, floral herb. It’s used to add flavor and aroma to dishes. Rosemary, on the other hand, is a bit more pungent and has a resinous flavor.
Let’s dive in and discover why each herb is so special and how they’re best used in recipes.
Why Use Lavender?
As a culinary herb, lavender (lavandula angustifolia) is often used in cooking and baking, particularly in sweet dishes. That said, it can also be used as an ingredient in tea. In recipes, the flavor of lavender is mild. It adds a floral aroma to dishes. That aroma makes dishes seem more aromatic and appealing.
English lavender is the favored type for culinary use. French lavender has a strong piney flavor and is often used in the herbs de Provence spice blend. Both begin blooming in early summer thrive in full sun. This is the time of year when you’ll begin to see beautiful “seas” of lavender in the regions where these tender perennials thrive.
Lavender is used both fresh and dried. To use fresh, cut the flowers from the lavender plant and add them to dishes while they are cooking. Once the dish is cooked fully, taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lavender before serving if desired.
Both the lavender leaves and the lavender flowers can be used in cooking. Harvest lavender for culinary uses when about half the buds have bloomed. Look for tender new growth of the grey-green leaves when choosing leaves for cooking.
Here are a few ways to use lavender:
- Add lavender to coarse sugar for a lavender-scented sugar sprinkle (it’s great on muffins!).
- Stir fresh lavender blossoms into lemonade for a refreshing summer drink.
- Add lavender to baked goods for a subtle flavor.
- Use lavender in savory dishes to add a unique flavor to your meal.
- Make a lavender-infused oil or vinegar to add to salads or use in cooking.
- Add lavender flowers to cheese trays.
If you don’t have easy access to fresh lavender, you can often find it in its dried form at health food stores. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon fresh lavender, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of dried lavender.
Why Use Rosemary?
You’ll find rosemary plants (Rosmarinus officinalis) in herb gardens throughout the world. With its fragrant, green, needle-like leaves, it’s no surprise that this Mediterranean staple has long been utilized in cooking and medicine. This evergreen shrub is a great addition to any kitchen garden and offers a pleasant aroma every time it’s disturbed; rosemary’s scent is and it’s hard to resist touching this fragrant herb when you walk by!
The pungent aroma of rosemary instantly can bring to mind the Mediterranean region, Italy in particular, and it’s one of the herbs included in Italian seasoning. Though it is often used dried, fresh rosemary is a wonderful addition to any kitchen.
When harvesting rosemary stems, look for bright, new growth. They should feel tender and have a fresh scent.
Cooking with Fresh Rosemary
If you’re a home cook, you’ve likely used rosemary in your recipes. This woody, green-leaved herb with its pine-like scent is a staple in many kitchens. Its flavors combine well with other herbs, spices, and vegetables. Like other herbs, its flavors are more intense when it’s dried.
The fresh aromatic leaves can be stripped from the stem, chopped, and added to recipes as they are cooking. You can also put fresh stems in their entirety into pots of soups and stews. Just be sure to remove it before serving. No matter which method you use, the herb adds its flavor and aroma to the dish as it cooks.
Rosemary flowers are edible, too, so don’t hesitate to add blossoms to your cooking.
Culinary uses of rosemary:
- Add it to your favorite soup or stew recipe.
- Mix it with olive oil and use it as a dipping sauce for bread.
- Sprinkle it on top of a roasted chicken or turkey.
- Make an herbal vinegar and use it as a salad dressing.
- Add it to a marinade for grilled meats.
- Use it to flavor mashed potatoes.
- Mix it with butter and spread it on top of grilled vegetables.
One of my favorite ways to use fresh rosemary: Cut several tender stems and bundle them together with a rubber band. Use this as a basting “brush” when grilling chicken for a deliciously flavored meal.
Dried rosemary is quite fragrant and a good substitute for fresh rosemary in recipes. If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary, you can use 1 teaspoon dry rosemary needles or 1/2 teaspoon ground, powdered rosemary instead.
Try some of the recipes below to enjoy the different flavors of lavender and rosemary in your kitchen!